Roman Augustoviz spends Minnesota's winters covering college hockey, specifically the Gophers, and other University of Minnesota sports. During the summer, he writes about the WNBA's Minnesota Lynx, with a dose of U sports sprinkled in. Follow him on Twitter @RomanStrib.
Bemidji State -- one of the WCHA teams staying in the WCHA -- has announced it has signed three defensmen for next season.
One is from Minnesota, from Plymouth. He is 5-8, 170 D.J. Jones of the Victoria Grizzlies of the British Columbia Hockey League. He had four goals, 29 assists and 33 points. He played high school hockey for Wayzata.
BSU also singed a Canadian, 6-5, 197 Carter Struthers of Weyburn, Saskatchewan. He played for the Weyburn Red Wings of the SJHL (6-17--23).
The Beavers also signed their first Russian, 6-1, 175 Ruslan Pedan of Moscow. His numbers were 11-22-33 in 44 games with the Janesville Jets of the NAHL.
BSU coach Tom Serratore has always said he has to recruit a certain type of player for his program. Someone who likes playing for a team in a small city, likes the outdoors, etc.
Bemidji also has a new arena, the Sanford Center, which is as nice as any for its size.
The Beavers have signed eight players in all for next season. They open the season with a nonconference series against St. Cloud State on Oct. 11-12.
Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore paid one compliment after another on Tuesday when discussing the Gophers, the team his team plays this weekend at Sanford Center in Bemidji.
"They have a lot of offense," he said. "Take a look up front, they have [Erik] Haula, they have [Nick] Bjugstad, they have [Nate] Condon. Take a look at their back line, they have Nate Schmidt, who is extremely dangerous. He has a great shot and they have two highly skilled skilled defensemen in Mike Reilly and Ben Marshall and they have a lot more offensive depth.
"But they are also very good defensively," Serratore said, also mentioning goalie Adam Wilcox's good numbers.
"They just got a lot of weapons and they want to play good hockey going into the playoffs -- as we do."
Which the Beavers have managed to do recently.
"We have taken points the last three weekends, which is pretty good," Serratore said. "Look at the teams we have beat and tied, they are pretty good."
Here is how BSU has fared lately:
Feb. 8-9, at Wis, T 2-2, L 3-2
Feb. 15-16, UMD, W 4-2, T 1-1
Mar. 1-2, at UND, L 4-2, T 2-2
"You want to get points every weekend in this league," Serratore said, "and that's the one thing we have neglected to do this year. If you get points every weekend, you are going to be competing for home ice."
Of, in the Gophers' case, the WCHA regular-season title. The Gophers have only swept one WCHA this series, but are tied for second in the WCHA with North Dakota. Both have 33 points, two behind first-place St. Cloud State.
"The Denver series before Christmas and our North Dakota series last weekend were the best series we played this season," Serratore said. "We had scoring chances, we were tremendous defensively. We blocked a lot of shots, we got goaltending. We were playing playoff hockey, which is a positive to me."
And this weekend could be a preview of the first playoff series for Bemidji State and the Gophers. Except the site would be different: Mariucci.
"Very easily, we could see Minnesota," Serratore said. "This could be a three out of five series right now."
As of today, the Gophers would be the second seed and BSU the 11th seed, meaning they would meet in the first round, but the standings can change a lot. The Gophers could finish anywere from first to sixth. BSU could be seeded from ninth to 11th.
"Chances are we are going to be 11th," Serratore said. "We just want to he playing good hockey. [And] we have to get to that magic number of three [goals] and you have to get some power-play goals."
Sophomore goalie Andrew Walsh has been playing well for BSU. "Walshy saw the puck very well last weekend," Serratore said. "He was confident. He saw the puck, he competed, he handled the puck. There was lot different aspects of his game that were very good."
Bemidji is a senior-dominated team, with 10 on the roster. So this will be an emotional weekend for them, playing their last series at home.
"It has been a tough year for these guys," Serratore said.
But he said the seniors have a lot to be proud of. They made the NCAA tournament as freshman with an at-large bid. As sophomores, they played in the Final Five in the Beavers first season in the WCHA.
"Last year we were a game under .500," Serratore said. "We had 25 points in the league. We were one win from [having] home ice in the playoffs. ... It is going to be tough to see those guys leave."
Bemidji State, the Gophers' next opponent, is coming off one of its best games of the season.
The Beavers tied No. 2 North Dakota 2-2 after a scoreless overtime last Saturday before the second largest crowd ever at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, 12,117.
BSU led 1-0 and 2-1, but North Dakota tied the score the second time with irs first power-play goal of the weekend with 8 minutes, 37 seconds in the game.
It was Bemidji State's 11th overtime game of the season.
The Beavers got a tie because of sophomore Andrew Walsh's 28 saves and his teammates' 28 blocked shots.
BSU took a 1-0 lead on freshman Phil Brewer's third goal of the season at 3:23 of the opening period.
Sophomore Danny Mattson gave BSU a 2-1 lead in the second period.
UND tied the score at 2-all on Jordan Schmalz's power-play goal in the third. With 7:07 left, North Dakota's Corban Knight had a go-ahead goal waved off because of high sticking.
BSU's Ben Kinne had a breakaway with 30 seconds to play in the final period, but Zane Gothberg made one of his 16 saves.
So the Beavers remain winless (0-3-8) in overtime games this season.
The Gophers play BSU at Sanford Center at 7:37 pm Friday and 7:07 pm Saturday. Senior Night will be celebrated the second night.
The Beavers have eight seniors: Jake Areshenko, David Boehm, Matt Carlson, Jordan George, Ben Kinne, Aaron McLeod, Brance Orban and Brady Wacker.
The Gophers, in contrast, have one: defenseman Seth Helgeson. The Gophers won 5-1 over Denver last Saturday on their Senior Night.
LATE UND CHARGE
In Friday's 4-2 loss to UND, the Beavers also played pretty well. Walsh had 24 saves and his teammates blocked 17 shots.
It was scoreless after the first period, then BSU took a 1-0 lead for five seconds. Cary Ward scored for the visitors at 5:49, but Mark MacMillan retaliated almost immediately.
Then MacMillan's brother, Mitch, gave UND a 2-1 lead on UND's first shot of the second period. Joe Gleason's deflection and Mark MacMillan's second goal, into an empty net made it 4-1.
Radoslav Illo's goal for BSU with 36 seconds left closed the gap to 4-2.
TALE OF THE NUMBERS
Offense 3.59 gpg, 1st WCHA 2.06, 11th
Defense 1.97, 1st 2.97, 9th
Penalties/gm 10.0, 2nd 11.9, 3rd
Power play 24.5%, 1st 18.3%, 9th
Penalty kill 86.7%, 1st 81.4%, 7th
Before playing UND last weekend, Bemidji State had a bye week. The series before that, BSU played Minnesota Duluth and in the first game scored four power-play goals to win 4-2 on Friday and then tied the Bulldogs 1-1.
The win on Friday, Feb. 15 broke a 12-game winless streak (0-9-3). It also was the Beavers' first win this season on a Friday. They are 1-10-4 on Fridays, 5-6-4 on Saturdays.
Overall, BSU is 6-18-8 overall, 5-14-7 in the WCHA for 17 points -- one behind Michigan Tech -- for 11th place in the conference. If the season ended today, the Beavers would play the Gophers at Mariucci Arena in the first round of the conference playoffs.
The Gophers (22-7-5, 14-7-5) are tied for second place with North Dakota, but have the tie-breaker over UND, because they took three of four points in the one series they played.
* Brance Orban has game-winning goals in three of BSU's six victories. He also leads the team in scoring with eight goals and 13 assists for 21 points. That put him tied for 51st in the league in points. ... Eight teammates have between 10 and 18 points. ... Aaron McLeod has a team-high 11 goals; he has 16 points.
* Sophomore goalie Andrew Walsh has played two-thirds of the time. He has a 2.58 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage.
* Last season the Gophers swept Bemidji State at Mariucci, 3-0 and 4-1 on Feb. 17-18. It was not nearly as easy in Bemidji on March 4-5, when the two teams met on the last weekend of the regular season like this time again. In two overtime games, the Gophers tied 2-2 and won 3-2.
* Gophers junior forward Tom Serratore is the nephew of BSU's head coach, who has the same name.
He had to wait a while, but Bemidji State coach Tom Serratore finally got his 200th career victory on Saturday.
The Beavers gave it to him with a big 5-1 upset of No. 10-rated Denver at the Sanford Center in Bemidji. The crowd was 3,268.
Junior forward Jeff Jubinville of Edmonton, Alberta scored two goals for BSU. And the Beavers won the special teams battle, going 2-for-4 on the power play while its penalty killers held the Pioneers 0-for-5 on their power play.
Five goals for Bemidji State tied a season high.
L.inemates Brance Orban, a senior from Lethbridge, Alberta, and David Boehm, a senior from Naples, Fla., each had a goal and two assists for Bemidji State. Junior forward Radoslav Illo of Bytrica, Slovakia, had two assists
Sophomore goalie Andrew Walsh of Dawson Creek, British Columbia, had 24 saves for the home team.
BSU led 5-0 when Denver's Nick Shore scored with 11 seconds left in the second. It was his seventh goal of the season, but first since Nov. 23 versus Yale.
The Pioneers still lead their all-time series with Bemidji State 11-2-1, but the Beavers are 2-2-1 in the last five matchups. The two teams had a 1-1 tie on Friday after a scoreless overtime.
Bemidji State (5-8-3, 4-7-3 WCHA) is off now until Dec. 30-31 when it travels to Hanover, N.H. to play in the Ledyard National Bank Classic. The Beavers’ first opponent will be Massachusetts at 3 p.m. Sunday. The next day, they will play either Dartmouth or New Hampshire.
DU WINLESS IN LAST EIGHT
Denver (9-6-3, 7-4-3) is winless in eight consecutive games, dating back to a 2-1 loss vs. Yale on Nov. 23.
The Pioneers are 0-5-3 over the stretch.
Denver goaltender Adam Murray, making his first start since Oct. 27 because of an injury, finished with 25 saves.
Bemidji State outshot Denver 30-25, including 26-17 over the first and second periods.
The Pioneers are off now until Saturday, Dec. 29 when they face Boston University at Magness Arena in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Game.
Bemidji State has signed five hockey players to national letters of intent during the week-long early signing period which began Wednesday. They are:
* Michael Bitzer of Moorhead, Minn.
* Brendan Harms of Steinbach, Manitoba
* Bob Kinne of St. Paul
* Phillip Marinaccio of Vaughan, Ontario
* Charlie O’Connor of Elk Village, Ill.
“This year’s early signing class is forward-heavy, but we think we are bringing in a very good mixture of skill, speed and competitiveness,” said Ted Belisle, the Beavers assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, according to a BSU news release. “These players have all proven they can put up good numbers in junior hockey, but if there is one thing that stands out about this class, it is that these players have good hockey sense.”
Their short bios:
Goalie Michael Bitzer, 5-10, 201, age 19. ... In first season with Lincoln Stars of USHL, 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals against average and a .956 save percentage. Bitzer has stopped at least 28 shots in every game. ... He was 22-8-0 and a 2.30 goals against average at Moorhead H.S. last season and led the Spuds to Class 2A state tournament. ... Won Frank Brimsek Award, given to state's best senior goalie.
Said Belisle, “We really like Bitzer’s history and we like the fact that he’s adjusted well into junior hockey. He is athletic and tracks the puck very well. We are very happy to have him be a part of our program.”
Forward Brendan Harms, 5-11, 169, age 18. ... First-year forward with the USHL’s Fargo Force. Leads the team with 23 points (5g-18a) in 15 games. ... Second in USHL in scoring. Harms has scored in 11 of the Forces’ 15 games, which includes three different three-point efforts. ... Spent two previous seasons with the Portage Terriers of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL). In 101 games for the Terriers, Harms hadd 50 goals and 70 assists for 120 points.
Said Belisle, “Brendan is a very exciting prospect for us. For a young player, he is already a veteran in junior hockey, this being his third year. One thing with Brendan Harms, is that he always puts up numbers. He has played on some very successful teams in juniors. He has played in two Royal Bank Cups in Canada and so far this season in the USHL, he’s had a tremendous amount of success due to his feel for the game.”
Forward Bob Kinne, 5-11, 175, age 20. ... In his first year with Bismarck Bobcats of the North American Hockey League. Has seven points (3g-4a) after 18 games and is fifth on the team in scoring. ... Kinne, the younger brother of current BSU captain Ben Kinne, played for the Lincoln Stars of the USHL last season. In 39 games, he had six goals and two assists for eight points. ... Had 95 points (42g-53a) in 54 games at Cretin-Derham Hal in high school careerl. As a senior in 2010-11, he led the Raiders to a 14-9-4 record and a trip to the section playoffs with a team-leading 53 points (22g-31a).
Belisle said, “We’re excited about Bob’s talent set and his speed. Because of the pace he plays at, we think he is going to be a very effective player for us.”
Forward Phillip Marinaccio, 5-10, 182, age 19. ... Four-year veteran of junior hockey. In second season with USHL’s Chicago Steel. In 12 games played, Marinaccio has nine points (6g-3a), which includes two game-winning goals. ...In two seasons with Chicago, he has 47 points (16g-31a). ... Also played for the Villanova Knights (2010-11) and the Vaughan Vipers (2009-10) of the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
Said Belisle, “Phil Marinaccio is an offensive player with a very good ability to read and make plays. His feel for the game is tremendous. He has an exciting factor to him when he has the puck. At any moment, he can make a play to create offense from anywhere on the ice.”
Forward Charlie O’Connor, 6-0, 177, age 19. ... In his second season with Chicago Steel, teammate of Marinaccio, O’Connor has two points (1g-1a) in six games this season. ... Last season had 10 goals and 19 assists for 29 points. ... Also played three seasons with Lake Forest Academy of the Midwest Prep Hockey League, where he recorded 96 points (39g-57a) in 38 games.
Said Belisle, “He’s got a tremendous amount of depth to his game as a forward. He can chip in offensively, he’s a very good fore-checker and he’s played in all situations in junior hockey. He’s just one of those glue guys that you love to have on the roster.”
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